A good thing to struggle with

by Wayne Prins on April 3, 2012

Are you for the oilsands or are you against them? These days, we hear a lot of passionate debate from both sides in Canada, the US, and around the world.

From environmentalists we hear that continued development of the oilsands will lead to irreparable damage to the landscape and catastrophic climate change. Their opposition to the Keystone and Gateway pipeline projects is the most recent and vocal example of their stand against oilsands development.

From industry supporters we hear that the standard of living enjoyed by most Canadians wouldn’t be possible without the economic boost created by the oilsands. They assure us that the environment will be just fine. Oh, and if catastrophic climate change does happen, well, don’t blame the oilsands. Blame coal-fired electricity plants.

Most Canadians are left to watch the debates and make up their mind from the outside. The vast majority have never been to the oilsands. Many are unaware of what their standard of living would be like without the oilsands. With so much heated rhetoric, they don’t know where the truth lies on either the economic or the environmental sides of the debate.

It’s okay to struggle with the oilsands. In fact, we ought to struggle. The environmental impact troubles me deeply. While most oil companies have adopted sustainable development as part of their mission statements, their main purpose is the pursuit of profit. And that troubles me deeply, too.

But the economic benefits of the oilsands are undeniable. There’s also no denying that many of the things that we need come with an unavoidable environmental footprint—from the cars we drive to the food we eat to the homes we live in.

What’s important is that we learn the facts, consider the consequences, and, when we do debate the oilsands, we do so from an intelligent, informed position.

Today, CLAC represents more workers in the oilsands than any other union. I’m proud of the great work our members do. I’m thankful that we live in a country where we can freely debate questions about the tremendous bounty presented by the oilsands, and the way we develop this resource. It’s a good thing to struggle with.

 

 

 

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